By Sasha Chavkin
On my way to work this morning at the New York World - an investigative website covering New York government - a story very nearly fell on my head. A scaffold collapsed directly on top of my bus on Frederick Douglass Ave, leading frightened passengers to flee from rubble that appeared to crash through the bus windows.
The Bx15 bus was heading west across 125th St at about 9:20 AM, and pulled alongside the curb at Frederick Douglass Ave to pick up new passengers. As it moved forward, a crashing sound came from the back. For a moment it appeared that we had hit something on the side of the street.
Then a cloud of dust or smoke began filling up the bus behind me. I was seated near the front, and the haze made it impossible to see beyond the middle of the bus - it was an articulated bus connected by an accordion in the middle.
Passengers began running from the back of bus to escape the damage behind me. Several were screaming, and one woman was carrying her baby as she ran. It was unclear what had happened or why the bus had filled up with dust or smoke.
For about a minute, the bus driver kept the doors closed as passengers ran toward the front. Passengers were asking each other if everyone had made it safely, and it appeared that no one on the bus had been injured. The bus was about half full at the time of the accident.
By the time the driver opened the doors, the police had arrived on the scene. An officer shouted for all passengers to exit the bus, and the police hurried us across the street to the south side of Frederick Douglass Ave.
From across the street, it was clear what had happened: an entire scaffolding had collapsed on top of the back half of the bus. The back of the bus was covered in rubble, and appeared to be heavily damaged. Dozens of police and firefighters were pouring onto the scene.
I took a short video of the damage and the police and firemen arriving:
After a few minutes, I walked westward away from the scene. I began speaking with a teenage boy who had also been on the bus, and said he had actually been in the back when the scaffold collapsed.
He said that the rubble had broken through the windows and fallen into the bus while he was still inside. “I thought I was going to die,” he said.